I wouldn’t be surprised if the new judge agrees, he already decided Hasan could keep his beard.

FORT HOOD, TX (AP) — The new judge in the Fort Hood shooting rampage case faces a controversial decision next week: whether to spare Maj. Nidal Hasan a possible death sentence and let him plead guilty in the worst mass shooting on a U.S. military installation.

Defense attorneys said Hasan wants to plead guilty to 13 counts of premeditated murder, but Army rules prohibit a judge from accepting a guilty plea in a death penalty case. If the death sentence is removed, Hasan’s punishment would be life without parole — which he already faces if convicted of the 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the 2009 attack on the Texas Army post.

The date for his long-delayed trial has not been set, but pretrial hearings are scheduled Wednesday through Friday so the new military judge, Col. Tara Osborn, can reconsider several defense requests previously rejected by the former judge. That judge was removed after the military’s highest court said he appeared to show bias, a ruling that ended appeals that had delayed the case more than three months.

Defense attorneys argue that Hasan should be spared a possible death sentence because his rights have been violated — including by the former judge who ordered that Hasan’s beard be forcibly shaved. Hasan first showed up in court in June with a beard, later saying it was required by his Muslim faith, but facial hair violates Army rules.

Defense attorneys also claim Fort Hood’s commanding general was not impartial when he decided in July 2011 that Hasan would face the death penalty, and had been influenced by high-ranking government officials. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, has not yet entered a plea.